Stickmen Studios has quite the interesting history as developers are concerned. Not only did it receive money from the government to create games for autistic children, its office was destroyed in a 2011 earthquake. The developer, being relatively young, has a short list of games under its resume. Its past titles have been met with lukewarm reviews and its most recent project, Doc Clock on PSN, is no exception to this. Being a side-scroller, this puzzle based game relies too heavily on awkward controls and cheap puzzle mechanics concerning the combining of various objects. While it offers a bizarre story that has the potential to be a fun distraction, the negative aspects hinder the overall package.
Quirky Humor - If there is anything that this title has going for it, it’s the quirky humor it exhibits. The premise of the plot is this: Doc must find a way to reverse the problematic dilemma of his cat turning into a cactus. Furthermore, he has a companion named Sack that further contributes to the humor by ridiculing him every step of the way. I couldn’t help but compare him to Grimoire Weiss of Nier. Much like Weiss, he comments on the decisions, or rather the mistakes, of the player, which injects some light-heartedness into the awkward gameplay.
Good on Paper - The gameplay formula sounds mighty interesting on paper: you can utilize anything and everything in your surroundings to advance further in the level. With so many apparent options at your disposal, it creates the illusion that there will be nice customization with many different solutions available. If anything, it makes you interested enough to play the game at the beginning which is better than having terrible design from the get-go.
Nice Sound Effects - One of the other highlights of the game are the varied sound effects used throughout that, along with the humor, add a vibrant aura to the game. The sound effects are varied and add a level of authenticity to the different objects. Furthermore, while the character models may be forgettable, the background environments are colorful and give a nice art direction to side scrolling action.
THIS CLOCK NEEDS CLEANING
Infuriating Gameplay - The single biggest detriment to Doc Clock is the gameplay. As previously mentioned, the premise is promising. You can use your surroundings to mesh objects together to create a means to traverse the obstacles preventing your progression through the level. However, it quickly falls apart. You’ll find objects like chairs, wheels, et cetera scattered about, and you can combine them into a new invention. What is really frustrating is the fact that there is no way to really know what exactly what will work and what will not. In fact, you will find yourself failing over and over and over. This becomes frustrating especially as you are ‘entertained’ by the repeated insults of your sidekick. Just when you believe that you may have actually assembled something worthwhile, you’ll try it to only find out that it falls apart right away. This is toppled by the fact that there is no means to indicate where the objects should be combined and one false step will cost you. You are also unable to alter the object as a whole and can only manipulate individual parts. Now, the game does provide a way of going back in time to reverse the mistakes, but it only helps so far, especially when errors happen so frequently.
Awkward Controls - To make matters worse, the game controls do not translate well at all to the PS3 controller. You navigate the arm used to pick up objects with the right analog stick. R1 picks up items and L1 rotates them. This control scheme does not feel natural. It goes against the old scheme of using both of these buttons to rotate the camera back in the day. I found myself trying to rotate the objects and was dropping them and picking them up repeatedly instead.
Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time is ultimately an experiment that needs work. It does not take itself seriously and presents you with a unique premise that grabs your attention right off the bat. However, these positives quickly become transparent and the faults of the gameplay such as repeated failures and awkward controls rear their ugly heads. The game needs a certain level of polish and if a sequel ever appears, I can hope the developer realizes its mistakes and builds upon the small successes the title has to offer. As it stands, the game is not worth your time and you can look elsewhere for your downloadable title fix.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*